Hot August Melancholy

Hot August days invite a certain melancholy. As July comes to a close, an ancient grief rises to the surface and the more I swat it away, the more it demands my time. My nine-year-old self rises to the surface and reminds me of my terrible loss: the death of my father on an oppressively hot, early August day.

Dad was a horticulturist by trade, but his love of gardening came home with him as well. He built our Ontario garden from scratch, changing a mound of dirt into what felt like paradise.

Daddy's Easel

Daddy’s easel, hung on the wall of my crafting area. Photos of his model of the Golden Hind, Dad with a dog on someone’s porch, the flower shop he once owned with my Mum in Seaforth, Canada

If he were with me today, I would place my hand in his and we would walk through my garden together.

bee on chocolate mint

A bee gathers pollen from the chocolate mint in bloom

I once captured bees in a jar to show my dad I was brave. He explained in his kind way why I should set them free. They’re good for the garden he said. I was six at the time but for some reason that memory remains sharp and clear. Perhaps when memories are scarce, we hang on to what we can.

bee on chocolate mint flower

A bee travels the garden

We had a shorter growing season in Canada, but Dad was able grow tomatoes each summer. What fun we had harvesting the fruit and bringing it through the back door for our lunch.

curb garden tomatoes

Three green tomatoes, coming along nicely in the curb garden

tomato plant flowers

Tomato plant in bloom

Dad didn’t grow pumpkins in our Ontario garden. It would be especially fun to show off my beautiful specimen and to smile about the squirrels that most likely planted them.

tree rat with birdseed

A tree rat helps himself to some bird food late one night

Dad loved all animals, once rescuing a mouse from a group of boys on the street in his home town of Oldham, England. I too rescue rats and mice and though most people cringe, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Mouse curb garden

Mouse surveying the curb garden

Daddy would surely get a kick out of a different kind of mouse: Mouse the Cat. Mouse is a rescue too, in his own way.

I descended from a long line of people who rescue strays. It’s a wonderful lineage.

These hot days will pass and my mood will lift, but for now I’m making room for that ancient loss and grief.

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Hummingbirds, Spiderwebs and My Left Foot

hummingbird in flight

Anna’s Hummingbird at the Feeder

Hummingbirds flap their wings about 55 times a second!   The resulting sound is soothing, like a constant heartbeat. We have three feeders in our garden, in addition to several of their favorite flowers. When the plants are in bloom, the Anna’s Hummingbirds enjoy Salvia (we have four) and Abutilon (we have six).

While taking pictures of my lemons for a different post, I could hear one flapping over head.  I took a few shots near one of the feeders, before she flew past me into the shrubs. For the first time, I saw her dip her beak into a spider web. I managed one shot before she flew away.

hummingbird gathering spiderwebbing

Anna’s Hummingbird Gathering Spiderweb for her Nest

Did you know that hummingbirds line their nest with spider webs? They also eat soft-bodied insects when they’re feeding their young. The prospect of a nest of hummingbirds nearby has me feeling giddy.

Footnotes

It’s been almost three months since my foot surgery. If you’re new to my blog, you can catch up here.  Dr. Sheth said I’m actually “ahead of schedule.” She kindly added that she thought my positive outlook and my commitment to following the healing protocol all worked in my favor.  So while I still have some pain and swelling, I have the all-clear for walking again.  I’m one happy woman.

Purple Garden Palooza

garden triangle may

Purple garden palooza

Peter Piper may have picked a peck of pickled peppers, but I’m picking purple petals from my perfect garden. It’s a purple palooza.

Ha! Say that three times.

The small corner garden near the walkway to our door looks like royalty. It’s awash in three shades of purple, with dots of orange and green accents. Last year’s sweet peas re-seeded and came back in a royal flush.

sweet peas

Sweet peas

sweet pea flower gives way to seed

Sweet pea flowers give way to seed pods

They’re in good company too. Love-in-a-Mist scattered seeds everywhere and now lines the sidewalk in a purple haze. Pay no attention to the dying grass in the background. The lawn is on its way out.

love in a mist lining the sidewalk

Self-seeding love-in-a-mist line the walkway

The Statice flowered early this year, showing pearly white blooms in the center of the calyx.  I love the way they compliment each other.

statice with flowers

Statice: calyx and flowers

One California poppy grows at the edge, but I fear a dog is lifting its leg once a day as the foliage is looking a bit…tired. The plant is still hanging in there though. Go Team Violet! Go state flower!

california poppy

California poppy wrapped up for the night

love in a mist closeup

Love-in-a-mist blooms and seed pods

Things you many not know:

(I didn’t)

The word ‘purple’ comes from the Old English word purpul which derives from the Latin purpura, in turn from the Greek πορφύρα (porphura), name of the Tyrian purple dye manufactured in classical antiquity from a mucus secreted by the spiny dye-murex snail.-Wikipedia

Today, science has revealed much more about purple than our ancestors ever realized: Purple is the most powerful visible wavelength of electromagnetic energy. It’s just a few steps away from x-rays and gamma rays. – Color Matters

The color purple is a rare occurring color in nature and as a result is often seen as having sacred meaning. Lavender, orchid, lilac, and violet flowers are considered delicate and precious. –Bourn Creative

Sowing Mysteries and Garden Sprawl

Have you ever planted one of those seed assortments that promise extraordinary results with no effort?  According to the package, a jaw-dropping butterfly garden will appear within a matter of weeks. All you have to do is scatter the seeds in the soil, cover, water and enjoy.

I’ve fallen for the sales pitch twice now and I should know better. It seems irresistible when you see the photo on the packet with 100 square feet (30 meters) of wildflowers. In my experience, ‘thousands of seeds’ turn out to be one, maybe two hardy plants. The end.

Or is it?

I present to you, garden sprawl.

Both Love-in-a-mist

love in a mist at the sidewalk

Love-in-a-mist edging the sidewalk

love in a mist lining the walkway

I love this self-made border

love in a mist, poppies, statice

Love-in-a-mist fills in all the space around the Sweet Peas, California Poppies, and Statice

and Four o’clocks

four o'clock buds

Four O’clock, time to wake up

four o'clock long view

Four O’clock, the long view

have sown themselves throughout the garden. They’ve traveled from the front to the back of the house, filling in the spaces in between. I even saw a few in the neighborhood on our evening walk. Those seeds get around!

They’re all welcome in my garden, with their tender greens, pops of yellow and soon, love-in-a-mist lavender blooms.

We’re on strict water restrictions as we work our way through year four of the drought. So far, the seedlings are getting by on morning dew and an occasional watering. We’re turning off the sprinklers to the lawn completely and hope to eventually replace lawn with a native alternative.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying these unexpected gifts and their presence in my arid garden.

What’s the water situation in your neck of the woods?

Blooming Thursday: A Quick Walk Through the Garden

I’m finally feeling like myself again after a week and a half of vertigo. It was nice to walk through the garden on this unseasonably warm day.

I met a brave squirrel while crouched taking photos.

nonchalant squirrel

Nonchalant squirrel

He spotted Mouse-the-cat and wandered off, but he really wasn’t in any hurry.

mouse the cat

It’s all about me, right?

After refilling the hummingbird feeder, I enjoyed this little darling in flight.

hummingbirds irradescent back

Ana’s Hummingbird lands on the feeder

hummingbird at feeder jan 2015

Hummingbirds need to eat every thirty minutes

The garden show stopper this time of year is the Hardenbergia Violaceae. Who doesn’t like a gorgeous vine that flowers in winter?

hardenbergia long view 1-29-2015 9-43-54 AM

Hardenbergia growing along the fence

hardenbergia close up

Flower closeup

No need to raise your hand.

I found this lovely description along with a bit of history from San Marcos Growers in Santa Barbara, California:

Hardenbergia Violaceae ‘Happy Wanderer’ (Purple Vine Lilac) requires little water once established. The species is widespread through much of Australia and can be found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania where it grows from along the coast to up in the mountains. It was first described (as Glycine Violaceae) by the Dutch botanist George Voorhelm Schneevoogt in Icones Plantarum Rariorum in 1793 from cultivated plants that were thought to be from seeds collected in the Sydney area in the first few years of that settlement. Glycine is the genus of the related soy bean (Glycine max) and this plant was later combined with Hardenbergia, a name Bentham used in 1837 when describing Hardenbergia ovata. The name for the genus honors Franziska Countess von Hardenberg, sister of the Baron Karl von Hugel, a 19th century Austrian patron of botany who collected plants while on an expedition to Australia in 1833. The specific epithet is in reference to the typical color of the flower. Other common names include Purple Coral Pea, Happy Wanderer, Native Lilac. Because the long, carrot-like root was reportedly used as a substitute for sarsaparilla by Australian aboriginal bushmen, it also has the common names Australian Sarsaparilla and False Sarsaparilla. The Australian aboriginal name for it is Waraburra.

Don’t you love learning new things?

I hope you enjoy your weekend, rain or shine, snow or thaw. I’ll see you next week.

hardenbergia buds 1-29-2015 9-54-39 AM

Hardenbergia leaf and bud

Professional Relaxer?

Years ago we bought a cozy little chair hammock for the garden.  It came with a decal that said “Professional Relaxer.”

Snort!

I made sure the boys stuck the decal to my husband’s car because I’m incapable of ‘relaxing’ in my garden. My idea of gardening nirvana isn’t about relaxing, but about doing. So after pronouncing to a handful of friends that we had ‘nothing planned’ for most of the weekend, I proceeded to clean my side yard. I sorted, swept, washed, pruned, recycled, tossed and donated most of the afternoon.

We have two narrow side-yards, though only one has a gate.  We once used the closed side yard as a play area for the boys.

boys in sideyard

Once upon a time in the side yard with Fluffy, CC and the boys

In later years, we created a screened-in cat enclosure so our cats could have fresh air and exercise but remain safe. We have one unkind neighbor who set a trap for our cat, then took him to the animal impound.  Eventually we discovered the Cat Fence-in System and life in the feline world has been better ever since.

A few years ago we adopted Slinky, a semi-feral kitty who wanted no part of indoor living. I made a cozy enclosure for her, complete with a day-time lounging area, a climbing post and a sheltered bed. She lived out there for a year. After nabbing her for her annual trip to the vet, and keeping her briefly indoors, she had a complete change of heart and moved in!

slinky and mouse in the side yard

Slinky’s Private Quarters (Mouse liked to invite himself over)

Absent Slinky, the side-yard morphed again. This time it wasn’t pretty.  It became the home for wayward garden screening. Old cat litter boxes, past their prime but not recyclable joined the mix. Plastic pots saved from nursery bedding  plants multiplied like unmatched socks. The space no longer satisfied my tidy aesthetic.

side yard starting point

Side Yard Starting Point

cat enclosure

Far End of Cat Enclosure

We borrowed our neighbors small truck and combined his items with ours and made a trip to a local transfer station.  While a trip to the dump was a bit of an adventure, it also made me realize the back-end of human consumption.

Cat boxes without a recycle symbol eventually have to be tossed.  Cat furniture, made from particle board and carpet remnants, so too have nowhere to go.  Broken tool handles, fractured irrigation pipe, and other bits of detritus end up as landfill.  Our trip was an exercise in awareness as well.

Back  home, exhausted and sore from the day’s work, I eventually put my feet up.  That said, I’ll leave the serious relaxing to the professionals.  When you garden, there’s always work to do.

 

2014-06-23

Nesting Material: Do’s and Don’ts

First, a retraction.  For the last few years I’ve been stuffing mesh apple bags with laundry lint, an offering for the neighborhood birds and squirrels.  I’m not sure where I originally found the idea or if I came up with it on my own.

I asked about the lint at a recent birding class, and they said that experts no longer recommend it. The owner of our local birding store said it compacts when wet.  According to this Humane Society article it ” crumbles, and it may contain harmful residues from detergents and fabric softeners.”  I use green products in the wash and don’t use a softener so I thought it was fine.  Now that I know better, I’m spreading the word.

Conversely, the birding store suggested offering animal fur.  This seemed  counter-intuitive to me since birds are cat’s prey, but I decided to give it a go.  Instead of tossing the cat fur collected in the brush, I’ve been tucking it into the trees in our garden. Would we have any takers?

The answer is yes, and today I got photographic proof.

With my camera in hand, I saw a bird lift out of the shrubs with something white in her mouth. Could it be?  I snapped from a distance, but couldn’t be sure till I looked at the picture close up.  Sure enough, this bird has a mouthful of Beijing’s fur.  Yeah!!!!

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

So to recap: Laundry lint is bad for nesting but animal fur is a hot commodity. My apologies for leading anyone astray.